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Concerning the Timing of the Blessing “Baruch Shep’tarani”

February 12, 2015


The question put before you was should the father recite the blessing Baruch Shep’tarani when his newly bar-mitzvah son leads the synagogue service for the first time as an adult, or should the father wait for the first time the young man is called to read from the Torah. You answered that because the practice as it appears recorded in the codes and siddurim is for the father to recite the blessing when his son reads from the Torah, the father should wait until then.

I would like to suggest that the practice is specifically recorded as such because it is ordinary for the first public demonstration of one’s majority to be an ascension to the Torah. This is is so because that act is one that most Jewish men are capable of doing; in the olden days it meant actually reading at least three verses from the Torah, but not necessarily much more, and today it only involves reciting two blessings. On the other hand, most people do not lead the services unless they have to, and most laymen are technically not qualified to do so, so it is much less common for a bar-mitzvah to inaugurate his new status by leading a service. However, if for what ever reason he does lead a service before he gets a chance to be called to the Torah, then the father should recite the blessing at that time. This is similar to the ruling Rabbi Pereg wrote before which allowed naming a boy well before his circumcision: even though it is customary to name him immediately after the circumcision, it is not necessary, and, on the contrary, we see that none other than Isaac, Jacob, Esau, Peretz, Zerah, and Eliezer were all intentionally named before their own circumcisions.
There are two points to add:
1. The blessing discussed is not one that is recited in all Jewish communities. Its origins are relatively late in history, and it is not mentioned in the Talmud. There are many rabbis, even of Ashkenazi extraction, who rule therefore that the blessing is not a true blessing as ordained by our sages, and therefore may not be recited in full, but rather by omitting the third through sixth words (“Lord, King of the Universe”). Certainly according to those opinions it does not matter when this non-blessing should be recited.
2. The above answer is made stronger when we analyze a more extreme case: When should a father recite the blessing if his son does not intend to go up to the Torah or lead the services? It seems that if he has to say the blessing, he should do it as soon as possible, and that the blessing therefore is only linked ceremoniously, but not halachically,  to the young man’s first time reading from the Torah.

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